2K wants to turn its sports game into an esport.
The publisher announced today that its starting a competition, called Road to the Finals, for its basketball simulator NBA 2K16 that will give away $250,000. This represents another major company actively trying to attract competitive gamers (and the millions of viewers that love to watch them). 2K is trying to take part in one of gaming’s fastest growing sectors, with market research firm Newzoo saying esports will hit $463 million this year and $1.1 billion by 2019.
“As the world of competitive gaming continues to evolve, NBA 2K is a natural fit to join the growing landscape,” Alfie Brody, vice president of marketing for NBA 2K, said in a press release for GamesBeat. “Our series has long inspired rivalry among gamers, and we’re looking forward to encouraging our fans to enjoy the thrill of competition on a larger scale.”
How this all works, however, is a bit complicated.
“Road to the Finals tips off on February 15 in North America with a series of unique, NBA 2K16 in-game events scheduled through May 8,” the press release detailed. “Teams can participate in any of the 16 qualifying events where they will need to win at least four games in order to qualify. Those four games will be scored based on the team’s performance and then ranked on the event leaderboard. The top score of each qualifying event day will be deemed the winner and will move on to the tournament. On May 21, the 16 winners on both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One will go head-to-head in a single elimination tournament. The console winners will then face off for the $250,000 championship in June while the NBA Finals are taking place.”
Take Two, 2K’s parent company, has been slower to enter esports than other publishers like Electronic Arts and Activision Blizzard. However, it is publishing Battleborn this year, a first-person shooter from Borderlands developer Gearbox that takes influence from MOBAs (multiplayer online battle arena games) like League of Legends, one of the most popular competitive games in the world.